Isn’t it easy to read the Bible and find tales of cardboard people in a distant land.
Most of us have never lived in Israel. Certainly none of us have lived in the first century AD. There is a lot that we don’t understand. Stuff we’ve never seen.
I love to research people and places in the Bible and gain insights that I can relate to others so that the stories “come alive.”
This was the primary goal when I was writing Faith & Miracles. I really wanted you to see these people in the same way you think of your neighbors, coworkers or family. I wanted you to connect with their challenges and understand how they felt, and why.
When I got to the last chapter, Running & Jumping and Praising God, it was about a crippled man who begged at the temple in the first century. I had to ask myself “what was that like?”
What was it like to sit outside of the temple and beg?
I don’t know what kind of mental image you have for the Jewish temple in 33ish AD. I’m going to guess that it’s not a big enough picture.
I only say that because that’s how it turned out for me.
I used to think of a temple as a single building. A classical structure built of marble and loaded with columns, wide steps and a portico that went all the way around.
That’s not even close.
In 1996 I got a chance to travel to Israel. I went up on Temple Mount. I visited both of the mosques that are built on top (yes, there are 2!) I walked around the highest point in the city for quite a while.
Temple mount is HUGE! It’s so big it could hold 11 football fields. It’s not a single building, but an entire complex.
I started wondering about what it might have looked like back in Acts 3. So I did what any self-respecting person in the 21st century would do. I googled it.
Of course, one obvious hit was the model city in Jerusalem. It’s a model of what Jerusalem would have looked like in the early first century – I saw it on that same trip to Israel.
But honestly, between you and me, that picture feels a bit sterile. It’s all stone and monochromatic. It engages my analytical brain, but not really my heart or my imagination. So I kept searching.
I’m so glad I did!
Not much later I found images from a guy in the UK who has built a model of the temple. It’s a bigger scale, and it involves color and model people…
It sent my imagination into overdrive!
Check that out! Look at how beautiful and dramatic that structure is. You can see the outer wall, the inner colonnaded wall, another wall like a fence, then the structure around the temple complex proper!
And what a structure! The slide show has another shot I love that looks up into the temple proper. It is so inspiring. In my mind’s eye I can feel what it might have been like to walk into “The House of God.”
Check out the article on the Telegraph website here. There are 19 total images that I can’t squeeze into this email. They will amaze you on two fronts:
- That someone would spend so much time and care building such a lovely model (30 years!)
- How impressive the temple must have been.
Now stop and read the story in Acts 3:1-8. If the beggar was at the gate called “Beautiful” how stunning must it have been?!? How jarring would it have been for a crippled man to be there day after day begging for alms?
Now shift gears. Think about that compound loaded with money changers and merchants selling lambs and doves. That’s what Jesus cleared out with a whip of cords and His righteous zeal.
It wasn’t a space the size of a basketball court like the fellowship center at your church. It wasn’t the foyer to the building where some folks had set up folding tables like when you sell tickets to your Easter pageant.
Jesus must have been MAD! “A little bit pissed off” would have gotten lost in all that space.
I’ll bet He made a terrible ruckus and a major scene. What a sight! Sometimes I wish I had been there to witness first hand.
Sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words. Sometimes it’s priceless.
If I can change the way you see the temple, it will change the way you read your Bible.
If I can take a few people whose names you might recognize in the Bible and turn them into real people across the thousands of years that separate us, then God’s Word can come alive with Power in a way that will change your life.
So here’s to reading. Here’s to researching. Here’s to learning and growing.
Never stop. God is more than worth it.
PS. If you find this kind of thing stimulating, Faith and Miracles will really light your rocket. I looked at 10 different miracles in the Bible and tried to get inside the person who received the miracle. I think you’ll find it a really enlightening picture of people and places that might just have been empty names before.
If your spiritual imagination needs a jump start, this is a great booster!